1 Samuel 3, 3-10, 19 + Psalm 40 + 1 Corinthians 6, 13-15, 17-20 + John 1, 35-42
Saint Peter the Apostle Parish Naples, Florida
The first words that Jesus speaks in John’s Gospel are heard today: “What are you looking for?” This question is essential to faith. Three times in John’s Gospel this question is asked. The first time is today. Then in the Garden of Olives after the Last Supper it will be asked again of those who come to arrest him. Finally it is asked one more time on Easter Sunday when Mary Magdalen comes to the tomb. The question frames the whole Gospel and the answer determines discipleship or opposition. There is no other way.
We all answer this question even when there are no words, for what we do always reveals what we are looking for. A person who knows what they are looking for in life has vision and purpose. What we are looking for drives our decisions, shapes our relationships, and reveals our values. Like the disciples in this first chapter of John’s Gospel, we may not have words to answer the question, but what we do says it all. While they did not answer the question, they followed him, and that said it all.
This is a fascinating dialogue. Jesus asks a question, and instead of answering the question, the disciples ask a question. He says: “What are you looking for?” and they say: “Where do you stay?” Now, I don’t know about you, but there have been many times in my life when I have been asked a question for which I had no answer, and one of my tested ways to avoid revealing ignorance is to ask another question. It would sometimes go like this: “Where are you going?” someone asks. I say: “Why do you want to know?”
I suggest that this is what is happening between Jesus and those disciples John the Baptist has sent them to Jesus. They do not know what they are looking for, so rather than admit it, they change the subject. However, it doesn’t work. They ask their question, and Jesus says: “Come and See.” At that moment in John’s Gospel, it is as though the lights come on and the curtain goes up. Keep reading, and you’re going to find an answer to both questions. Watch them become disciples all the way through the Passion, the Resurrection, and Pentecost. It will become obvious what they are looking for. They want to know where Jesus is to be found. He does not give them a street address. He gives them a life-style we call discipleship, and after some time, near the end of his life among them, he sits them down at a table and says: “Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in me just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love”. What he eventually reveals to them in answer to their question is that he lives in them. This is where he is to be found: in the lives of faithful disciples.
In these days as we prepare for the beginning of Lent, it might be a good time to reflect on and take a close look at how our lives reveal what we are looking for. As a church we do not preach a Gospel of Prosperity that suggests that those who have are somehow more blessed than those who live in want. We do not preach a gospel that suggests that good times are a reward and bad times are a punishment. We preach, live, teach, and profess a Gospel of presence that promises we shall never be alone. It is a Gospel that reveals a God who has been through it all with us from birth, and the terrorism of Herod, to betrayals by trusted and loved friends, through misunderstanding, abandonment, death, and finally the victory of the resurrection.
This is what we must seek: the confidence and hope, the assurance and the peace of mind that comes from knowing that we dwell in God and God dwells in us. When our lives begin to reveal this, others in this world will be at least tempted to reconsider their search for power, prestige, privilege, and wealth, a search that always leaves others in want and in need. So we ponder today the question Jesus asks to determine whether or not we are in opposition or in discipleship. There is probably no other option.